We are being watched. I am not trying to freak you out. Yet, that is the truth. Websites we visit; files we download, goods we buy are all being tracked by internet service providers, cookie stuffers, as well as social media trackers. Furthermore, if there is a data retention law in your country, all of the online activities have to be stored for a certain period of time. If not us, our online privacy should freak!
As a privacy advocate, I do believe that anything we are doing online should be between our mind and devices. In order to make this happen, we will use VPN services and encrypt our online activities through a tunnel. By doing so, we will make it impossible both for the government and ISPs snoop our data.
Image credit: ExpressVPN
While VPN services are capable of enhancing our online privacy, choosing a bad one may also end up in a disastrous experience. At this point, our primary concern is to leave no log behind. Therefore, we will be focusing on quality VPN providers that do not keep or store critical activity logs.
Yet! It is not easy to find a proper provider in the market. There are so many criteria to be met…
Criteria to check for the right no-log VPNs
If we are to work with a legit company, privacy should go beyond claims. That is why I created a checklist to pay great attention. A reliable, log-free VPN must have following features. That is the only way a VPN provider can keep its privacy promises.
Stay away from 5/9/14 eyes alliance
The topic may seem weird. Yet, around the world, there are several countries sharing intelligence. These countries are so strict about the information that almost nothing can escape from their sight. The alliance first started with UK and USA, then extended to 12 more countries.
5 eyes countries: United States, United Kingdom, Canada, Australia, New Zealand
9 eyes countries: 5 eyes+ Denmark, France, the Netherlands, and Norway
14 eyes countries: 9 eyes+ Germany, Belgium, Italy, Spain, and Sweden
As these countries are obliged to share sensitive information along with each other. We will be looking after VPN providers founded outside of 5/9/14 Eyes alliance countries.
Clear log policy
As I am totally aware of these misleading words, I walked through all the privacy terms of the services I have reviewed so far. And that is why we are left with only a few providers offering clean and easy to follow privacy terms.
3rd party audit
Not quite necessary. However, it is a good feeling to know that an independent company audits all server and software of the VPN services.
Stable servers and quality software
It is out of the question that good no-log policy has to be supported by both stable servers and functioning tools. A company may meet all of the requirements above. However, if the servers are not stable and the device apps are not functioning properly, our privacy experience may turn into a disaster.
While checking the privacy policies, I will also take a close look both at the server stability and software features. In that sense, I will make sure we are getting the most out of our VPN choices.
Let’s get started!back to menu ↑
5 Best no-log VPN providers
ExpressVPN is based in British Virgin Island where there is no mandatory data retention law. Away from 5/9/14 eyes, BVI offers an amazing spot for better privacy. ExpressVPN explains this:
- The BVI, while sharing the same monarch as Great Britain, is a self-governing group of islands located in the Caribbean. The BVI has its own legislature elected by BVI citizens, an independent judiciary, and a national police force. The code of laws which BVI companies are required to abide by was enacted in the BVI, not the UK.
- We do not collect logs of your activity, including no logging of browsing history, traffic destination, data content, or DNS queries. We also never store connection logs, meaning no logs of your IP address, your outgoing VPN IP address, connection timestamp, or session duration.
Besides plain words, 3rd party PWC also ran an audit of the service and approved how actually ExpressVPN kept its promises with its TrustedServers.
Enough? Not yet!
19 December 2016, Turkey experienced Assassination of Andrei Karlov. Turkish police officers found out the IP address of the assassinator belonged to ExpressVPN servers. According to Hurriyet Daily News:
- The IP address that was used during the deletion had been leased from the U.S.-based Express VPN, which does not store activity or connection logs. The prosecution’s contact with the company did not yield results as Express VPN stated that it is not subject to the rules of U.S. and EU laws.
Related with the topic, ExpressVPN adds up:
- As we stated to Turkish authorities in January 2017, ExpressVPN does not and has never possessed any customer connection logs that would enable us to know which customer was using the specific IPs cited by the investigators. Furthermore, we were unable to see which customers accessed Gmail or Facebook during the time in question, as we do not keep activity logs.
Now that we are happy with the ExpressVPN’s proven no-log policy, it is time to go into technical details about the service.
According to my long term ExpressVPN experience, you will get super stable servers. However, as for the speed performance ExpressVPN falls behind its competitors. All of the download and upload speed are either on or below average. It is highly acceptable for daily usage. Yet, not recommended for 4k streaming or downloading torrent files.
Last but not least, ExpressVPN offers easy to install and minimalist apps for your devices. Each app has its own unique features depending on the platform you want to use: Network Lock (Kill Switch), 5 simultaneous connection, 256bit encryption are some of the core features we can make use of. We can have all these features starting from 6.67$/month.
NordVPN is another no-log VPN provider based in Panama. In the last years, the company grew up exaggeratedly both with its competitive price and dedicated apps compatible with almost all VPN required platforms. Yet, most importantly, its strict no-log policy was able to lure so many customers to trusted “No data retention law of the Panama”
- NordVPN guarantees a strict no-logs policy for NordVPN services, meaning that your activities using NordVPN Services are provided by automated technical process, are not monitored, recorded, logged, stored or passed to any third party. We do not store connection time stamps, session information, used bandwidth, traffic logs, IP addresses or other data…
As for the independent audition by Big 4 – PWC, NordVPN keeps this information available only to its users. However, in short, the company approves NordVPN’s no log policy is suitably designed and implemented with its server configuration along with central infrastructure.
As mentioned above, NordVPN offers so many features and apps. What we get adds up another layer to our privacy. Core features follow up: 256bit encryption, CyberSec (ads/tracker blocker), double VPN, automatic Kill Switch, DNS leak protection, and dedicated streaming servers.
According to my experience, all features except CyberSec work fine. Furthermore, NordVPN cannot offer amazing speed results. You will likely have bad 2k, 4k streaming and torrent experience. However, as for daily usage, NordVPN offers pretty decent speed performance. We can use all these features simultaneously up to 6 devices for as low as 2.99$/month.
I would like to welcome Perfect Privacy to our no-log VPN list. Switzerland provider Perfect Privacy not only offers strict no-log policy but also provides unmatched, unique VPN features for greater privacy levels.
Like other providers in the list, Perfect Privacy is also away from 5/9/14 eyes jurisdiction and your data is secured under Switzerland law. Furthermore, the company depicts:
- Perfect Privacy generally does not retain any logs. That is more than just a characteristic of our infrastructure. It is the fundamental philosophy of our service. Since our establishment in 2008 customers can rely on the fact that we do not save any logs whatsoever – the privacy of our users is our most valuable asset.
Perfect Privacy backs up its no-log policy with the way their infrastructure works:
- All our services are running within strongly encrypted RAM disks so that it is technically impossible for data to be stored on hard drives. That also means that no data can be recovered if the power is disconnected.
I am not convinced yet. Are you? I think we need more proof than words. Here it is…
Perfect Privacy experienced a server seizure issue in Rotterdam. Dutch authorities seized two servers from I3D datacenter without giving further details…
Related with the topic, Perfect Privacy adds up:
- Since we are not logging any data there is currently no reason to believe that any user data was compromised.
Let’s talk about some technical information.
Perfect Privacy is unique in some ways. While its no-log infrastructure helps us have greater privacy, its software is bundled with fascinating features you cannot find somewhere else. These are:
- Cascading of multiple VPN servers: You can line up VPN servers according to your liking. Internet traffic will get encrypted within the chosen VPN servers and leave from the latest one.
- TrackStop: It is a great way to block phishing and tracking technologies.
- Stealth technology: If you are living in a country where ISPs block VPN traffic, you can make use of this technology. This feature will make your VPN traffic look normal and bypass ISP censors.
- NeuroRouting: In order to get the best out of Perfect Privacy servers, “NeuroRouting” technology will route your traffic throughout the best servers.
No log policy and plenty of privacy features look fancy. However, there are two drawbacks of Perfect Privacy…
- Poor software quality: Unfortunately, Perfect Privacy offers apps only for Windows, macOS; and Android. As for the other devices, you need to set up the VPN manually. Furthermore, the apps are not either minimal or modern.
- Price: The company offers one of the most expensive VPN services starting from 8.95$/month.
Considering price/performance values, rather than using Perfect Privacy, you might want to go for ExpressVPN.
VyprVPN is another no-log VPN provider located in Switzerland. Earlier, VyprVPN was keeping some logs. Yet, they decided to be a no-log provider and got their service audited by leviathan.
- We do not log a user’s source IP address (typically assigned to the user by their ISP).
- We do not log the IP address assigned to the user when using VyprVPN.
- We do not log connection start or stop time.
- We do not log a user’s traffic or the content of any communications.
Besides being a no-log VPN provider, VyprVPN also offers dedicated VPN apps with plenty of features.
First of all, VyprVPN builds and deploys its own dedicated servers for greater speed and privacy. Self-configured servers will make sure that we get the best results from our VPN experience.
Secondly, Chamelon protocol will help us bypass censorship in restricted countries like China, Russia, and Turkey… This will also grant us stronger encryption.
Third, VyprVPN DNS will make sure that our DNS servers are not leaking both through apps or browsers.
You can have all of these features starting from 6.67$/month. Simultaneous connection up to 5 devices and 30 days money-back guarantee are also included!
Unfortunately, VyprVPN does not offer any feature to block tracking scripts and phishing websites.
A newcomer to our list. SurfShark is another British Virgin Island-based VPN provider offering not only the best price/performance service in the market but also keeps no activity logs of the users.
A VPN that doesn’t keep logs will not collect details like:
- “IP address
- Browsing history
- Used bandwidth
- Session information
- Network traffic
- Connection timestamps
In short, a no-log VPN like Surfshark does not keep track of your online whereabouts or actions in any way.”
These sentences may appeal as a classic bunch of non-sense words to us. However, SurfShark adds up on actually how they manage the no-log policy:
- AES-256-GCM encryption,
- OpenVPN and IKev2 protocols,
- A dedicated solution to IP, DNS, and WebRTC leaks,
- And the Camouflage mode to add obfuscation to the VPN servers so that our VPN connection looks normal to the ISP.
According to our recent VPN review, SurfShark actually keeps its promises by providing all of the features above. Furthermore, a decent VPN connection speed is a big bonus.
Secondly, SurfShark got its service audited, the German Audition service Cure53 found coding problems in the VPN browser extention. Yet, no worries, SurfShark fixed them all.
Last but not least, SurfShark offers unlimited simultaneous VPN connection for as low as 1.99$/month – which may end up too many user stuffing and unnecessary server burden in the future.
Overall, Surfshark is a quality, no-log VPN provider you don’t have to be pessimistic about. One last thing worth to mention is embedded anti-block technology will block all ads/trackers both on your PC and mobile devices. This is a great feature if you want to increase your privacy level on your smartphone.back to menu ↑
What you cannot do with no-log VPN!
Do not get so excited about no-log VPNs. When people rely on no-log policies, they think they are invisible online or no matter what they do, their online activities are %100 away from sight. Yet, it is not true.
By using a VPN service, it might seem it is okay not to comply with your local law. On the contrary, you have to comply with the terms of service of the provider.
These terms usually cover the following topics…
You cannot use VPN services to:
- send spam emails or post hateful, insulting or threatening content
- upload/download/produce copyrighted materials as well as sexual or explicit depictions of minors
- engage in hacking other devices
- do any unlawful purposes etc…
After reading all terms of the services I introduced, – no matter if the VPN keep logs or not, I can tell “do not take a risk by conducting an illegal activity!”
A VPN service is not meant to legitimize your illegal moves!back to menu ↑
VPN services you should stay away
Speaking of no-logging VPN, I guess it is worth mentioning about the ones which promised no-log policy yet, gave away user data to authorities.
If your main concern is online privacy, then you should stay away from the following providers.
Hidemyass defends this fiasco:
- After the leaked IRC chat logs, the court ordered Hidemyass to cooperate.
- As stated in Hidemyass terms of service, the company had to comply with the law and gave away all identifiable information to the court and adds up: …our service is not to be used for illegal activity, and as a legitimate company we will cooperate with law enforcement if we receive a court order (equivalent of a subpoena in the US).
Ryan S. Lin charged and arrested in the US for cyberstalking his former roommates, a 23-year-old Massachusetts woman as well as her friends, family members, and other associates.
According to theregister.co.uk, investigation on Ryan Lin got deeper and FEDs found out that suspect was continuously accessing anonymous texting service, TextNow; using Proton Mail and some artifacts indicated the usage of PureVPN.
Here is the most interesting part of the case document…
- “Further, records from PureVPN show that the same email accounts – Lin’s Gmail account and the teleprtfx Gmail account – were accessed from the same WANSecurity IP address,”
“Records from the PureVPN” is a direct indication that PureVPN actually keeps logs.
Note: A sister company to PureVPN, IvacyVPN does also use PureVPN infrastructure. Think twice before registering to both of these services.
Working with a no-log VPN is crucial when it comes to online privacy. However, it is hard to find a reliable one. Services such as Hidemyass and PureVPN got caught sharing user information leading the arresting of a hacker group and a cyberstalker. All due to false privacy claims…
Bearing this problem in mind, I have lined up the criteria to be met such as being away from 5/9/14 eyes jurisdiction, clear log policy, 3rd party audition, stable servers with not leaking apps and proof if any…
Fortunately, ExpressVPN, NordVPN, Perfect Privacy, VyprVPN, and SurfShark are capable of meeting almost all criteria above. Do not strain yourself if your activities will be revealed at any point. Pick one of the services, install the apps and enjoy your ultimate privacy.
Do not forget! VPN services are not built to make us %100 anonymous online. Do not engage in any illegal activities!
You cannot imagine how it feels living in a country where the censorship peaks to top level. That is why I decided to start VPNxD to fight for true online freedom not for my homeland but for all world. On VPNxD, I am responsible both for reviews and “how-to-do” articles.